The Kentucky Wildcats and Mississippi State Bulldogs entered today’s 47th meeting between the schools tied 23-23 in the all-time series. When the final whistle blew on a hot afternoon in Starkville, the Dawgs reclaimed the lead.
The story of today’s game was execution and the short of it was that Mississippi State executed and Kentucky did not in a lot of points during this affair that ended 28-13. The Bulldogs started off on the right foot with Willie Gay Jr. taking a Sawyer Smith interception back for a 52 yard score on the opening drive of the game. True freshman Garrett Shrader looked poised in his first career start. He completed 17 of 22 passes for 186 yards and one INT, but also had a great day rushing with 125 yards. A few sacks were shimmied out of as well by Shrader and it looks like he will be an exciting player to watch going forward.
Kylin Hill had another strong game and is cementing himself as a one of the elite tailbacks in the SEC. Hill’s line was 120 yards with three touchdowns. The Bulldog defense allowed A.J. Rose to be the first 100 yard rusher against them since last season, but all in all they stepped up when they needed to. The secondary was especially strong today and could have had at least two more interceptions if the defenders could kept their hands on them.
UK was chasing from the very beginning due to the pick six and failed to make crucial plays at many points in the game. Three would be TD passes were dropped and Chance Poore missed two field goals, including ad 26 yard chip shot. Sawyer Smith finished only 15/41 passing with this stat line consisting of a few bad throws, but also more than a handful of drops from the receivers. A potential 24 points were left on the field. Offensive bright spots were the aforementioned A.J. Rose and usual suspect, Lynn Bowden, who still finished with 129 receiving yards even with his two drops in the end zone.
On defense, the Cats only allowed 21 points, but were still gashed for big plays at bad times, including a 49 yard run by Srader that all but iced the game on State’s penultimate drive. Mississippi State finished 6-10 on third down. The secondary for the Cats still has a lot of questions that need to be answered a quarter into the season.
Mississippi State moves on to face #8 Auburn on the Plains next week, while Kentucky will travel to Williams-Brice Stadium to face South Carolina in a game that either team and fan base feels they absolutely cannot lose.